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Maple Leafs Training Camp Blog: Mmmm..... BBQ

Saturday, September 14th
Maple Leafs Training Camp Blog: Mmmm..... BBQ

The sounds of screaming fans and the smells of delicious grilled meat greeted me as I arrived to the Paradise Double Ice Complex on Sunday afternoon for Day Three of Toronto Maple Leafs Training Camp in Paradise.

Not only did today feature another full day of on-ice practices and scrimmages, today was the day the Maple Leafs hosted the Community BBQ in partnership with Sobeys.

The crowd was predictably huge as record numbers showed up for the third straight day, as some fans clamoured into the two rinks as well as the parking lot to stake out a good spot for autographs at the BBQ later on. 

With my interviews for the week essentially done, I sought out to watch the first group’s practice and grab some footage. This group (there are three ‘teams’ at camp – Team Clancy, Team Salming and Team Bailey) featured a trio of former Growlers, including local boy Marcus Power, lanky power forward Hudson Elynuik and the transplanted Texan Brady Ferguson.

The crowd was packed in shoulder to shoulder and quickly began screaming as the group took to the ice. Trying to catch a glimpse of our Growlers, I fully glazed over the fact that both of the high-profile late arrivals at camp, John Tavares and Mitch Marner, were added to this group and were among the first on the ice, much to the delight of the hundreds in attendance.

After several futile attempts to catch a good photo of our Growlers with their high-profile Leaf brethren, I decided to head back to the media centre to unload my footage. 

As I was leaving, I felt a huge hand clamp down on my shoulder. First ever Growlers head coach Ryane Clowe, after scaring the pants off me, gave me a bright ‘What’s going on Bally?” before he slipped away into a reserved section of seats. I hadn’t seen Ryane all summer and it was great to see him smiling and looking well.

After a couple of shouted greetings, it was time to face the crowd and begin my arduous trek back.

The reserved media section on this sheet of ice is in the northwest corner of the arena. It’s great to have a specific area from which we can shoot from up close, but the only problem is there isn’t an easy access point that doesn’t involve going through the crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, my interactions with the crowd remained positive and amazing, but there were just SO. MANY. PEOPLE.

Walking from one corner of the arena to the other actually took 30 minutes or more. I now owe several fans a fresh cup of coffee as my hulking frame clipped a handful of half-full cups precariously perched on the lip of the glass. My bad, guys. 

By the time I made it through the masses, and dumped my footage, it was already time for the post-practice media scrums. Having missed Marner’s initial press conference the day before, I knew I didn’t want to miss this one. 

I rushed to our tented media oasis to await the most talked about men in hockey. I turned the corner and was met by a plethora of familiar faces, including the best color commentator in the ECHL Brian Rogers, alongside Telegram reporter Brendan McCarthy interviewing Marcus Power.

The interview quickly melded into an open conversation between us all, reminiscing on the Growlers’ big win in June, talking about offseason activities as well as the various Newfoundlanders we all knew who were playing pro hockey abroad. 

Our conversation ended just as the Leafs PR staff brought out the first subject – new father John Tavares who missed the first two days of camp.

He was smiling as he approached the reporters. One of the first questions asked was if he had gotten any parenting advice from any of the guys on his team. He and all of us in earshot chucked as he admitted his team was perhaps too young to have much good to say on the matter.

I have to say, I was impressed by his patience and demeanour. He was very truthful and forthcoming with his answers in his first interview of training camp and even stuck around for a few extra minutes to take some pictures and sign some autographs for some lingering volunteers.

Then, it was Marner’s turn.

He entered the media tent just like one of the boys. No attitude, no outward signs of having just signed a huge contract, just a guy who can’t wait for the season to start – a sentiment that I think represents us all. 

One final comment before I sign off and join the crowd at the BBQ for a hot dog. I have to give a shoutout to the ‘real media’ as I’ve been calling them all week. These men and women are some of the hardest working, kindest people in the business and I was happy to simply be in the same room as some of the most influential members of the hockey media.

And once again, a big thank you goes out to you all for taking the time to read my blog this week. I hope you’re all as excited as I am for the upcoming Growlers season. Keep your eyes peeled on the Growlers website (nlgrowlers.com) and social media feeds for more information as we creep closer to training camp.

And if you weren't able to get tickets to tonight's alumni game, you can watch Brian Rogers and I call tonight's game on Rogers Television. It's going to be a lot of fun. 

Can’t wait to see you all again at Mile One! Go Growlers!

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